Tricky choices for De Villiers, with full squad available

2009-07-28 00:00

SPRINGBOK coach Peter de Villiers, with an abundance of riches, will face a couple of tricky backline choices for Saturday’s second Tri-Nations Test against the All Blacks at King’s Park.

De Villiers could have a full squad available — apart, of course, from the suspended Schalk Burger — with Jean de Villiers, Adi Jacobs, Andries Bekker and perhaps even Ruan Pienaar available for selection.

Centre Jacobs and lock Bekker, who were unavailable for the Bloemfontein Test, have recovered and are fit to play, Springbok doctor Craig Roberts said yesterday.

De Villiers, who limped from the field during Saturday’s Test with what appeared to be a knee injury, was only suffering from cramp and he has been cleared while Pienaar, replaced at half-time has a slight ankle strain.

Roberts said Pienaar was the main concern, but he would probably recover in time for Saturday’s international.

“Pienaar rolled his ankle in a tackle just before half-time. We had the opportunity to assess him properly at half-time and decided it was better to pull him off then rather than risk further injury.

“He has a grade one ankle strain. He looks quite good today, though, and he did some straight line running and we are optimistic he’ll be ready for this weekend’s game.”

Roberts added the only other slight injury concern surrounded Bismarck du Plessis, who suffered a twisted ankle, but he is expected to be ready for the Test.

De Villiers now faces an awkward choice, both in midfield and flyhalf.

Most observers believe that the big midfield pairing of De Villiers and Jaque Fourie is the most potent in South African rugby and their physicality in defence was a factor against the powerful All Black centres on Saturday. However, Jacobs has been favoured by De Villiers over the last two seasons, while Wynand Olivier, on the bench on Saturday, has been the country’s form centre this season.

The injury suffered by Pienaar may well swing selection in favour of Morné Steyn, the better goal-kicker, for King’s Park.

De Villiers said he would not select Pienaar, his first-choice flyhalf, if he was not completely match fit.

“I’ll take my cue from the doctor, but there is more to rugby than running in a straight line. If I do put him on the field I may do more damage to him in the future,” said De Villiers.

De Villiers said he may even start with Steyn because of Pienaar’s shaky goal-kicking on Saturday when the Springbok flyhalf had a strong first-half and scored a try, but missed four kicks at goal.

The return of Bekker may result in De Villiers changing his bench and including the tall WP lock in place of Kankowski and using Danie Rossouw as a loose forward replacement, as he did against the British Lions.

Meanwhile, SA Rugby strenuously denied a weekend report that Bryan Habana transgressed team protocol by breaking the team’s curfew on the eve of the Bloemfontein Test.

A Sunday newspaper claimed Habana had returned to the team hotel at 1 am, but an investigation by SA rugby and the Bok team management found the report to be false.

“We view this in a very serious light and feel the report was based on hearsay and devoid of any truth. I spoke to Springbok coach Peter de Villiers and other members of the team management and they all assured me Bryan had done nothing wrong,” said Andy Marinos, acting managing director of SA Rugby.

“Members of the SA Rugby staff, as well as some journalists, were at the hotel and saw Bryan return to the team hotel after dinner. It was between 10.30 pm and 10.45 pm. I want to reiterate that Bryan did not transgress team protocols. This malicious report takes away some of the gloss from the Springboks’ marvellous victory.”

Possible Bok team: Steyn, Pietersen, Fourie, De Villiers, Habana, Steyn, Du Preez, Spies, Smith, Brussow, Matfield, Botha, Smit (c), Du Plessis, Mtawarira.

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